Ryan McGinley’s Brand of Youth Comes to Seoul

Installation view of Ryan McGinley’s first exhibition in Korea at Daelim Museum
(Courtesy Daelim Museum)

SEOUL — Ryan McGinley brings his photography to Seoul’s Daelim Museum for his first show in Korea. “Magic Magnifier” looks at the past 14 years of his career, including the pieces that first got him into the Whitney as the museum’s youngest ever artist to hold a solo exhibition.

“The show is not a retrospective, or even mid-career retrospective,” the 35-year-old told press ahead of the opening. “I don’t like to think I’m already halfway done making art.”


The survey includes early shots of the late Dash Snow, a close friend, as well as images from his “Road Trip” series, an ongoing project that documents the cross-country treks he’s taken every summer for nine years.

If his early-2000s work takes on the ethereal, whimsical feeling of one’s 20s, his recent images have adopted stronger iconography and monochromatic colors, demonstrating Biblical and familial references rooted in his own past. While still of the moment, the energy of the photographs display greater gravity.

Yet they maintain the intimate quality of stepping into the world of the young. McGinley, who typically shoots during magic hour, takes advantage of the still soft-eyed quality of his subjects, and the delicate relationship that forms during daybreak in the body language between people.

Ryan McGinley at his first exhibition in Korea / Courtesy Daelim Museum

“‘Youth’ to me describes a place of emotional and artistic optimism and freedom, a place where passion supercedes cynicism. I see it so potently in the people I photograph, like a second skin,” he said in an interview published in the exhibition catalogue. “So many of them are artists in their own right — painters, writers, musicians — which gives them a certain openness and vulnerability, an accessibility of feeling that is crucial to my creative act.”

Concurrent to the show, the museum will hold weekly lectures, concerts, and screenings. The first lecture by Suyong Joh, chief director of design group Joh & Co., will be held Saturday, November 9. Other upcoming lecturers include fashion designer Lie Sang Bong (January 4, 2014), poet Yu Hee-kyung (December 14), and singer-songwriter Lee Jin-woo (January 11, 2014).

The exhibition catalogue, published in book form, features essays by Mikyung Jeon, the chief editor at Harper’s Bazaar Korea and Dongjin Seo, an assistant professor at the Kaywon School of Art and Design.

“Magic Magnifier” runs through February 23, 2014.